Phase 2, 2018
Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, East Jerusalem
New Murals in Children’s Playground
In October 2018, Susan Greene and Fred Alvarado of Art Forces worked with a hip hop class from the Madaa Creative Center in Silwan, East Jerusalem, to restore previously painted murals and create new ones in a children’s playground near the Silwan Pools.
Statements From the Youth Participants
Sabreen: I am 16 years old and I am in the 11th grade. I participated in this mural because it’s more than just a painting. It has many meanings, in these days because we were displaced .. the Israeli media is actively publicizing, Israel’s name is everywhere you go .. so the idea in the mural is for us also to show that Silwan is with us wherever we go.
Ahmad:About a year ago, our neighborhood’s walls were all grey, like how do I say ..it was depressing, and so we colored the walls to portray some good and hope, so the walls aren’t grey and in bad shape and ya that’s it..
Lana: I am 11 years old. I participated in the mural because painting is awesome and helps express our feelings. And Silwan is beautiful and we want to make it even prettier.
Jawad: I want people to see that the youth in this center are creative, have ambitions and ideas.
We are from Silwan, we have been here for thousands of years. Why are we caged like the birds?
All of us is equal, we had been born in 9 months, so why you think that you are had been born in 10?? Silwan is the origin, Silwan is the favorite.
We came from Jerusalem towards the top.
We came from Silwan and we are not leaving Silwan.
We have been dispossessed and they say we can’t return.
Don’t be afraid of people who are full and have their rights–Be afraid of people hungry their freedom
Phase 1, 2016
“My Homeland is Not a Suitcase” started with a series of public murals completed in 2015 in Silwan East Jerusalem. US based Art Forces was invited to collaborate with the Palestinian community organization Madaa Creative and Information Center and completed approximately 2000 square feet. The murals express the idea: “To exist is to resist”. The murals touch on national issues, history, identity, dreams and are a memorial for Palestinian youth recently killed by the occupation. Among the images that capture the story are fig trees, for which Silwan was famous. Painted in the 4 foot square fig leaves are the faces of four dead Palestinian youth, including an infant, burned alive by settlers in Nablus.
Documentary of My Home is Not a Suitcase
Village of Silwan, East Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine invite International artists to collaborate on
public art that manifests resistance to dispossession, enduring power of imagination and creativity.
My Home is Not a Suitcase is taken from a poem by Mahmoud Darwish called “Diary of a Palestinian Wound”.
Art Forces uses community public art and technology, including murals, websites, social and new media, to inspire critical thinking and action. Art Forces moves from the local to the global, from the streets of San Francisco Bay Area to Olympia Washington, to refugee camps of Palestine and Lebanon. The projects make visible histories and relationships that have been obliterated and forgotten; making connections to national and global issues of social justice, borders, precarity, migrations and decolonization.
Madaa Creative Center
Madaa Silwan was established in 2007 by the Palestinian residents of Wadi Hilweh neighborhood in Silwan. The word ‘madaa’ (مدى) means horizon. The mission is to build a strong, knowledgeable and involved Arab Palestinian community in Silwan, and to provide educational and recreational activities and courses mainly for children, teenagers and women as well.
Wadi Hilweh Information Center
Wadi Hilweh Information Center was established in 2009 and was named for the neighborhood of the same name. The center aims at revealing the history of the village of Silwan and the Israeli occupation's violations. The Center provides legal services and otherwise advocates for those impacted.
Selected Additional Information
Stories of Silwan residents who helped with the mural include: Khalid Zir is a father of five whose home has been demolished and rebuilt multiple times. Rather than leaving his homeland, he defiantly moved his family into a cave in which he once stabled his animals. After shop-owner Ahmad Qasim was shot twice in the legs by a Israeli occupation settlers who remains unpunished, his young sons were interrogated by occupation forces, not about the crime but instead about why they had been playing in the street—a menacing insinuation that they were culpable for their father’s shooting. Jawad Siyam, director of Madaa Creative and Information Center whose family has lived in Silwan for 900 years. His grandmother’s home was confiscated several years ago by Occupation forces.
*Mahmoud Darwish, “Diary of a Palestinian Wound”
Blog: Phase 1, Summer 2015
With help from many Silwan residents there is now color on the wall. Many children came and painted and many families brought us tea and coffee. The mural stands in a small alleyway with lots of foot traffic and the occasional heavily armed settler flying by on a motorcycle. We heard lots of support for the design from passerbys, one local small shopkeeper stopped by the mosque image, leaned in and began to sing the call to prayer with a huge grin. We are continuously amazed at the resilience of people here. Despite relentless attacks and undermining, people are alive and creative. We are meeting many incredible and confident young people working on a mural that shares their story.
Today, thanks to Khaled, Amer and Nasser, the walls are primed and we've started laying out the design. Through many conversations with community members and the folks at Wadi Hilweh Information Center, we are focusing this first mural on resilience and resistance with images of the local fig trees, the local mosque, women in traditional embroidery and portraits of some of the area's young martyrs who were killed by Israeli settlers, carrying out the ideology of the state of Israel. The mural will surround the entrance to the 'Nadi' or clubhouse used by the women's organization and the youth summer camps. This year 400 youth are expected to attend. While we were working yesterday, two boys, 12 and 16 years old, were arrested by the police for supposedly throwing stones. Children are often interrogated, detained, tortured and forced to sign statements of guilt in Hebrew, a language most do not understand. In July alone 43 arrests took place in Silwan, 4 children were arrested under the age of 12.
We have arrived in Silwan, a community of 55,000 Palestinians and 500 settlers in East Jerusalem. Sahar Abbasi, the Director of Women's Programs at the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, gave us a tour of of the area and pointed out several walls where we can begin the murals. As we walked through the community, the disparity between the majority Palestinian neighborhoods and the few settler homes is immense. All residents pay the same taxes but the Jerusalem municipality only funds the settler's construction, building cobblestone roads, fancy lighting and providing municipal services such as garbage service and education, meanwhile the Palestinians are not given building permits, unable to renovate their homes or even clean out trash. If they do so they receive exorbitant fines and punishments including imprisonment.
REPORT FROM SILWAN, East Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Please help fund this powerful project!
A Multimedia Mural in Occupied Palestine
Artists Against Dispossess
Art Forces has just arrived in Silwan, East Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine from the San Francisco Bay Area, Occupied Ohlone Territory. Building on over 20 years of art and activism, the Art Forces team, Susan Greene, Eric Norberg, Rochelle Gause and Charlotte Saenz will, led by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, create a community mural and multi-media organizing tools. Silwan is a neighborhood in East Jerusalem confronting massive and violent colonization and dispossession by the state of Israel.
We are raising funds for mural supplies, recording, translation, editing of interviews and for an art exhibit called "Dispossession(s)," scheduled for the Fall 2015, that will include the voices and stories of Silwan and Bay Area residents. This exhibit aims to make visible for Bay Area audiences the connections between the forces of gentrification, land theft, state violence and colonization between the Bay Area and Palestine. "Dispossession(s)" will raise funds for the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan and Bay Area anti-gentrification organizations. Please check out our gofundme page to support this work.
More on Silwan:
Silwan is a community of approximately 55,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem resisting dispossession daily. Silwan is the target of Israeli settlement and archeological activities with support from the Israeli military, non-profits and government. Through a combination of constant intimidation, settler and military violence, arrest of Palestinian children and home demolitions, the residents of Silwan are being ousted from their own homes and land that they have lived on for generations. For more information on Silwan go to Wadi Hilweh Information Center.
Since we arrived 4 days ago, Israeli Forces arrested 8 year old Abdullah Emad Dkeidek, pictured above, interrogating and detaining him for 3 hours without letting his mother into the police station. They arrested and beat a 15 year old, harrassed an 85 year old woman and demolished 4 buildings without warning.
"No matter how bad it gets, we will not leave." - Ahmad Qara'een, a resident of Silwan.
More on Art Forces:
The mission of Art Forces is to create community public art and technology to inspire critical thinking and action towards collective liberation. Art Forces moves from the local to the global, from the streets of San Francisco to the refugee camps of Palestine. Art Forces' aims to make more visible the connections between struggles for social justice globally and histories and relationships that have been obliterated or forgotten.
In summer of 2014, Art Forces, in collaboration with NorCal Friends of Sabeel and theEstria Foundation, painted the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural making visible global connections embodied in joint struggles for justice. Using the occupation of Palestine as a lens, the mural addresses interlinked histories of colonization, environmental exploitation and international solidarity. Two of the artists from the Oakland Palestine Solidarity mural, Susan Greene and Eric Norberg, are a part of the current delegation.
More on the Delegates:
Susan Greene: is an international interdisciplinary artist, educator and clinical psychologist. Her practice straddles a range of cultural arenas, new media, and public art; focusing on borders, migrations, decolonization, resilience and memory. Through public art projects Greene conducts research on the intersections of trauma, creativity, resilience and resistance. Originally from NYC, she has been a resident of the Bay Area for 30 years, lectures widely and has a private psychotherapy practice.
Eric Norberg: A practicing Hip Hop spray paint artist & calligrapher for the past 30 years, Eric Norberg has led and collaborated with countless community murals throughout the SF Bay Area including the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural and beyond, including in New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, & Portugal. His uniquely stylized calligraphy, imagery, and poignant political stance geared towards support for people's struggle for justice, has earned Eric international acclaim. "I define myself as a writer, visual artist, muralist, educator and documentary photographer. It is my hope that through my images a thoughtful reflection takes place in which there is a greater awareness of people's common struggles that transcends race, class, and religion."
Rochelle Gause: Brought heart first into Palestine organizing by the death of her friendRachel Corrie by the Israeli military in 2003, Rochelle is a mother with 15 years experience as a community organizer and project coordinator. Rochelle co-founded the Olympia Rafah Sister City Project and served as Project Coordinator for the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. In 2010 she co-founded Olympia BDS, which led to the Olympia Food Co-op becoming
the first US Grocery store to boycott Israeli goods. She is currently Project Manager for Art Forces and National Organizer for Friends of Sabeel North America. Rochelle believes strongly in the importance of cross movement organizing and in the power of art to unite.
Charlotte Saenz: Charlotte María Sáenz works globally on education for social and political change. Projects are mainly with Zapatista and other communities in her native Mexico, plus diverse populations in the Levant and United States. At the California Institute of Integral Studies she is Lecturer for the School of Undergraduate Studies' unique Bachelor Completion program in Interdisciplinary Studies and Integral Education, while also teaching in the Department of Transformative Leadership and MFA Creative Inquiry Program. Born and raised in Mexico D.F., she holds an International Education Ed.M. from Harvard, and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.